I found the travel of my dreams. Or, better said, the travels of my dreams – literally and metaphorically. But maybe I should say that I actually found the dreams of my utopian travels?
Ok, this is getting confusing. Let me explain from the beginning.
I have been suffering from anxiety since….well, since as long as I can remember existing (yeah, this one I cannot blame on the pandemic). The most concrete sign I had was bruxism – which is a weird name for “teeth grinding”. I thought it was a physical condition until I was told it was a mental one. It became really bad in 2019, when I started grinding them so furiously during the night, that headaches and jaw pain became my new normal during the day.
My case was so extreme I needed gum surgery in early January 2021 (one down, two more to go – for you to see the extension of the damage). Three different dentists told me that surgery or mouth guards would just be palliatives – what I really needed to do was to treat the anxiety and the stress. So I tried it, and I can say that essential oils left my apartment smelling great, reading before bed made me reach my goal of increasing the number of books I read in a year, and yoga helped my flexibility. But the anxiety…..it was still there.
Hope made herself tangible to me when I started trying relaxation apps though. I downloaded Meditopia, Calm, Zen, Headspace, Relax Melodies…Don´t look at me like that, I know I was promiscuous. But I was also desperate. Desperation knows no loyalty. And I finally found my way towards a less stressful mind…at the same time that I satisfied my wildest vintage travel dreams.
Calm was the app that really did it for me. The slow-melody songs are great, the guided meditation sessions are useful, but it was in the stories that I finally found my rescue – and you won´t find this in any other app. The stories are basically decelerated tales about super interesting places told by impressive deep voices or charming sweet ones that will make your eyes start weighing pretty fast….even though the accounts are captivating!
The narration is so detailed you are immediately transported to Lisbon, Kathmandu, Cambodia or the enchanted Muir Woods National Park in California, without having to carry any luggage. What impressed me the most was that some of the travels are depicted in past decades, so you are taken through space and time all at once. For a vintage lover like me, this is like stepping into a time machine.
The other day, for example, I was in the Taurus Express in the 1930´s, traveling from Istanbul, in Turkey, to Cairo, in Egypt. It was a 40-minute adventure through snowy mountains and gritty deserts, inside one of the most renowned overnight trains ever made. Even Agatha Christie could not resist its charm: though the famous Murder on the Orient Express takes place in the Simplon-Orient Express, the initial chapter develops on the Taurus Express.
It is extremely remarkable that these tales are not only very engaging and magical, but they are also told with accuracy. I mean, they didn´t have to, despite the fact that it is kind of expected from the stories which are describing present times and places that still exist. But when I started hearing the narrator characterize sights, smells, sounds and concrete articles from former times, I just assumed it had nothing truthful to it. Maybe because the stories are so well written in a mythical way, I thought they could not have any touch of mundane truth to them. It was just not possible.
Of course I had to check. One day, enjoying my dreamy ride on board the Himalayan Railway (yes, I`ve got a thing or two for old trains), which operates journeys from Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri, in India, the narrator mentioned a fellow passenger was reading “The Statesman”, a top newspaper in the country around the 1920´s. Nooo…..they couldn´t have researched this, could they? Could these stories be true? I looked it up. And everything I thought was too much of a detail was actually very authentic. This made me even more of a fan of the app. These were not just hollow imaginative scenes in my head, they could have been true in another point in time. Since then, one of my most joyful moments of the day is when I am preparing to go to bed, and I choose a new place to travel to and get to know, sometimes with the bonus of also practicing some time-traveling. In times when traveling is restricted, it is definitely a very interesting compromise.
The length of the stories varies from about 25 minutes to 45, and you can browse through fictional or non-fictional ones. I am actually mostly asleep by the end of all of them. However, when I start listening to them too early, meaning when I´m still getting ready for bed, I might finish it before I even lie down. Still, that´s totally ok – I even prefer it, because the stories relax me so much, taking me completely out of the daily reality, that when I reach my pillow it takes seconds to fall asleep. If I´m lucky, I may even dream of being on board the Glacier Express, crossing Australia, strolling around Dublin, or traveling to Belize – places I´m still to visit through Calm app.
You can download Calm or any other relaxation app at the App Store on your phone, or access their website. Most of these apps will offer some free features, but the bulk will only be accessible through payment. To me, since I wanted the travel stories, the Calm subscription was definitely the most appealing though not the cheapest (it costs $69.99/year). My anxiety is still there, make no mistake, but the travel stories are definitely helping with my sleep quality and teeth grinding. It is a process, after all, and I know it will take time before this condition is under control.
If you want a taste of these dreamy travels, try this one. It describes a beautiful trip through lavender fields and small villages in southern France.
To sum it up, they can stop us from traveling, but not from dreaming. And, who knows, some of these at-first-fantasy trips can actually become an inspiration for future adventures. I know my bucket-list has definitely grown longer.
Where are you dreaming about tonight?
* This post is not sponsored by Calm or any other app. I wouldn´t mind being given a free subscription though, lol.
*If you suffer from anxiety or bruxism like me, you need to talk about it with your dentist and doctor.